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'Dirty South' exhibition reveals a century of Southern Black culture

Photo courtesy of MCA Denver
“The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse” exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver allows visitors the chance to explore the legacies and traditions of Black culture in the African American South through musical expression.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver has an exhibit that takes visitors for a trip through time in Black Southern culture.

"The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse" explores the legacies and traditions of Black culture in the African American South through art and musical expression.

"As you walk in, you are fully immersed in the sights and sounds of the region," Leilani Lynch, the associate curator for the exhibit, said. "It's also special because it's intergenerational. You have works going back 100 years coming next to artwork that was made just one, two or three years ago."

The idea behind the exhibit came from Valerie Cassel Oliver of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Lynch said Oliver, who was the original exhibit curator when the show first launched, first came up with the idea to bring some of the South's history to the Mile High City while working at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.

"It really speaks to us wanting to think about how the South and how the cultural output that is on view in this exhibit is important to be shown outside the region," Lynch said.

The exhibition consists of three floors that each touch on the music and work of artists from the past century: Landscape, Visioning/Spirituality, and the Black body.

"There's video work and paintings from the 1940's, bails of cotton — things that visitors might be surprised to see in a museum," Lynch said. "It will make them think about life and the culture around them in a different way."

Some of the artwork contains themes that touch on Southern culture. Popular music artists like CeeLo Green and Ludacris are also featured.

The exhibit is open at the MCA Denver until Sunday and tickets are available on the MCA Denver website.

A closing celebration for the exhibit will take place Saturday evening at 6 p.m. It will include two DJs, light refreshments and entry to the exhibit. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online.

I serve as the afternoon host for KUNC’s All Things Considered. My job is to keep our listeners across Northern Colorado informed on the day’s top stories from around the communities we serve. On occasion, I switch roles and hit the streets of northern Colorado digging up human interest stories or covering a major event that’s taking place in our listening area.